Games for Lunch: High Velocity Bowling
0:00 After yesterday's disappointing experience with Brunswick Pro Bowling, I thought I'd try Sony's answer to Wii Sports. Who will be best in the better bowling battle?
0:01 Apparently I need to download 30MB of update data to run this game, which I downloaded months ago. All righty then.
0:04 The download and install are finally done. Let's go bowling!
0:05 The game is THX certified. My TV is barely stereo. What a waste.
0:06 Nice, classic, lounge-style jazz music seems to fit with the neon bowling sign on the title screen. The menu has an option called "My Balls." Teehee.
0:07 There are detailed background stories for the two selectable characters, Joe and Jill, who are apparently married middle-aged parents from "Winchestertonfieldville, IA." Joe is summed up by the spoken quote: "Let's hurry, I need to pick up the minivan from the shop."
0:08 Some quick loading and we're on the lanes. I have to grip the PlayStation 3 controller around the middle kind of awkwardly and twist it to position the bowler, then twist it again to aim his shot. I hit X and, as the bowler shimmies quickly forward, the game tells me to pull back and follow through, which I do. Despite my wrist twist, the ball doesn't spin at all and I get only one pin. Joe: "Darn it, my wrist went limp."
0:11 Ohhh... I see on the screen that the L2 and R2 buttons control spin. That means the swing only controls power, not direction. Interesting choice.
0:12 The spin buttons are relatively easy to hit even when holding the controller awkwardly, but it's kind of hard to hold the analog buttons halfway down to get subtle spins. I guess that's kind of the point...
0:13 Booyah! I pick up a tough 4-7-10 split using some subtle rightward spin. It helps that the pins seem hollow and very easy to slide across the lane, but I still feel a great sense of accomplishment.
0:15 My first spin-free throw is also my first strike. Figures.
0:16 A few late spares get me up to a score of 100. Now that I know what I'm doing, the next game should go better, right?
0:19 I'm finding it's very hard to aim with the tiny arrow the game uses to point down the lane. In a way, this is a realistic way of simulating the difficulty of aiming a bowling ball. In another way, it just annoying.
0:22 I finish game number two but I hit a button before I can see my score. I know it wasn't good, though. This cow ball might be stylish, but its hefty spin takes some getting used to. I do like the pace though. Two games in less than 15 minutes is my kind of "high velocity."
0:23 I start a "head 2 head" battle with Barry, an old-ish guy with a gray mustache. The match takes place in "Barry's Lair," complete with surfboards and tiki torches on the wall. The twangy, neo-retro music just adds to the esoteric character of the place.
0:24 I have to watch Barry bowl, but at least he's quick about it. When Barry misses his spare, he turns, shrugs, but still has a bounce in his step. There's a lot of life in these characters, and it really helps the experience.
0:25 BAM! Two strikes in a row after a starting spare and I'm out to a big lead. It helps that these pins look and fall like they're made of balsa wood.
0:29 A series of marks puts Barry right back in it, but I hold my own with a spare and a strike. I've got a two pin lead coming out of the sixth frame. This is actually kind of thrilling!
0:31 I choke in the stretch and Barry takes a 10-pin lead after nine frames. I need a mark plus nine on my tenth frame just to pull out a tie. Gulp!
0:32 Another choke -- seven pins -- and Barry is the winner. He does a happy dance while I double over in anger. This is just the right level of challenge for me -- the challenges seem doable, but not trivial.
0:33 On to trick shots, which initially means knocking down one single, solitary pin.
0:37 I'm starting to figure out that aiming means taking perspective into account. The lane narrows as it goes off into the distance, meaning "straight" is actually angled inward a little. If only that arrow went to the end of the lane.
0:40 I get stuck on a few of the tougher pin arrangements, but I pass "stage 4" and earn a "star." I unlock a costume for Barry, which is nice because I haven't unclocked Barry yet.
0:42 Upon starting a tournament, I notice a tip that tells me not to swing at full power, because the meter will go "into the red" and "throw off my aim." NOW they tell me. Or, more likely, they told me before and NOW I notice.
0:49 Armed with my new red-avoidance knowledge, I rack up an amazing score of... 132, getting second place in Round 1 of the tourney. Two more games? But my arm's already getting kind of tired. I know, whine, whine, whine. Shut up. It's exercise!
0:50 I accidentally turn off the sound effects for one throw. Seeing a bowling ball roll silently down the lane and then silently hitting the pins is upsetting, somehow.
0:51 After hearing "Can we hurry, I need to go pick up the minivan from the shop" for the fifth time, I make the easy decision to turn off the voices.
0:54 Nothing is more satisfying than a good pickup of a tough spare. Nothing.
0:56 A slow start becomes a 135 in the end. The fact that the in-game average mirrors my real-world average is a good sign, I think.
1:01 A good start becomes an awful finish in my third tournament game (only one spare in the second half), and I finish second for the tourney. I need to go ice my shoulder now.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? It's fast-paced, fun, and has just the right mix of realism and accessibility.
This column was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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